- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Coco Miller hit two clutch 3-pointers in the final 17 seconds last night, rescuing the Washington Mystics from certain defeat and giving them hope. Then Taj McWilliams-Franklin dashed it.

McWilliams-Franklin made a three-foot spinning bank shot at the buzzer, giving the Connecticut Sun a 65-63 victory at MCI Center over the last-place Mystics.

Washington (2-8) has lost five in a row and eight of its past nine, and is 1-7 against the Eastern Conference. The Mystics must also deal with the questionable day-to-day status of star Chamique Holdsclaw.

“It’s hard. I really feel for my team,” Mystics coach Marianne Stanley said. “I want so bad for them to experience a win right now.”

Holdsclaw, found to have re-injured a different part of her right hamstring while being looked at by a doctor in the morning, spent last night cheering with the rest of the 11,453 fans while in street clothes on the bench.

The Sun used a 17-4 run to take a 63-57 lead with 16.8 seconds left and seemingly deflate the hopes of the Mystics’ first win since June 10.

But then luck seemed to be finally turning in Washington’s favor.

Miller pulled up and drained a 3-pointer with 10.3 seconds left to cut the lead in half. Connecticut’s Shannon Johnson, who had a team-high 18 points along with teammate Katie Douglas, came right back and a missed wide-open layin and fouled Annie Burgess out of frustration.

That stopped the clock with 7.4 seconds left and gave the Mystics time to set up a play for a game-tying 3-pointer. Miller took the inbounds pass near midcourt, took a couple of dribbles to her left and swished a 3 from 25 feet.

“I knew I had to get a quick shot off and I was able to get it to go down,” said Miller, who had a team-high 13 points.

The pandemonium that engulfed the arena during the ensuing timeout was drowned out once the Sun were able to go to their No.1 option, McWilliams-Franklin. She received the ball in the paint and, with Paige Ford and Aiysha Smith guarding her, scored on her left-handed shot before the buzzer.

Officials reviewed the play before verifying that the basket indeed counted.

“You’ve got to be ready to shoot when you get the ball,” McWilliams-Franklin said. “I broke my right hand in high school so I use my left hand a lot. When I turned, I just saw the basket and the time. You count in your head and it was too late if I dished to Brooke Wyckoff. She wouldn’t have got it off in time. I had to shoot it.”

The game-winner left the Mystics stunned.

“This is probably one of the better games we’ve played all year, and to lose is really tough,” Miller said. “We needed a win desperately.”

With Holdsclaw out and her team in need of a first half spark, Stanley adjusted her starting lineup. Smith was given her first career start and played well, scoring a career-high 12 points and grabbing six rebounds. Asjha Jones, who started in Holdsclaw’s place the previous four games that she missed, again was inserted in the lineup and scored nine points. The moves left Stacey Dales-Schuman on the bench for the first time this season.

The Mystics led by as many as nine points before going into halftime with a 40-33 lead. It was Washington’s first halftime lead since June 10.

After they opened the second half by missing their first nine shots, the Mystics appeared to be taking control of the game when Jones converted a right hand shot in the post to give the Mystics a 55-48 lead with 7:58 lead.

But the Sun’s Johnson answered with a driving layin to start a 9-0 run that was capped when Nykesha Sales dropped in a 3-pointer to put the Sun back on top 57-55 with 4:16 left.

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